Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Kenyans may have wondered why, after he was declared President-elect on March 9, 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta started holding meetings at his residence, near State House, instead of the office at NSSF building that he had been using as deputy Prime Minister. In a reconstruction of the first days in office, The People has recapped episodes of drama and blunders that staggered the new leader and his deputy William Ruto, as they walked into sheer inexperience of the highest offices in the land.Earlier in 2012, Uhuru had lost his Treasury office after he resigned as minister for Finance at the commencement of his case at the ICC and the government had allocated him an office at the NSSF building, previously set aside for immediate former First Lady Lucy Kibaki who had since stopped using it. Uhuru had been using the office during his presidential campaign. However, some unforeseen hiccups emerged which saw Uhuru asked to leave the NSSF office, apparently without retiring President Kibaki’s knowledge.

Uhuru’s party, TNA, had given Mary Wambui the ticket to contest the Othaya parliamentary seat to the great displeasure of a highly placed official at then office of the President. It was well documented that Kibaki’s family was loath to the idea of Wambui vying under TNA. Uhuru had to “pay” for it with an eviction from the NSSF building office. Henceforth, though still the deputy Prime Minister, he would operate from his private residence.

When he became President elect, he continued working from home, awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court election petition filed against him by rival Raila Odinga. Another practical demand of the new office would come early on the first Monday morning of their election, when Uhuru and Ruto were invited for a cup of tea with the out-going President Kibaki. With only a few hours in office and the issue of validity of their election headed for the courts, Uhuru and Ruto expected the State House meeting with Kibaki to be just a simple tete-a-tete. Not so for the out-going President.

“He appeared, by all body language, all set for a hand-over that very morning,” says a source in the Presidency who accompanied the two to State House. Kibaki addressed the two as “Bwana Rais and Bwana Makamu wa Rais” (President and Deputy President), according to the source and treated them with utmost respect. Said a State House source, “Kibaki’s words and body language painted a picture of a man ready to quit State House that very minute.” At the breakfast meeting, Kibaki would learn that Uhuru had been operating from home.

Kibaki directed immediately that an office space for the President-elect and his deputy be created at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). All the same, the President-elect had to operate from his residence for a few days before the KICC office was secured. For President-elect Uhuru, the reality of the changed circumstances dawned on him at the Bomas of Kenya tallying centre immediately he was handed the IEBC certificate declaring him the winner of the presidential ballot in the afternoon of Saturday, March 9, 2013.

No sooner had he been declared President-elect than security men who had accompanied him to the Bomas venue were shoved aside by a new squad specifically trained for presidential security. Then came the moment for him and Ruto to go back to their respective vehicles for a short ride to the Catholic University grounds where the Jubilee team had set up its tallying centre. The President-elect and the deputy wouldn’t be allowed to ride in their personal vehicles again. There were new custom-made limousines to fit their new status.

Back at their private residences (Ruto’s in Karen) new security teams had taken over. But the KICC office turned out to be a nightmare for Uhuru and his deputy. “Lobbyists from all walks of life descended there in droves. Everybody who, for one reason or the other, felt they were owed a favour by the President-elect and his deputy thought it was pay-back time and came calling with or without appointment,” says the top State House based source. The source in the Presidency recalls: “Queues of people wishing to see the President-elect or his deputy would form from 5am in the morning and not end until well past 9pm in the evening. It was like a mad-house.”

Faced with near-paralysis because of the human traffic jam in their offices, the President-elect and his deputy came up with an ‘escape’ plan. They would find something to engage them down at the Coast. A programme was hurriedly put together for the two to “inspect” development projects, starting with the port of Mombasa. “That way, they were able to take a break from the intense activities of the lobbyists in the capital city,” says a presidential aide. In the meantime, the President-elect and his deputy got down to constituting their would-be Cabinet, even before they were sworn into office.

Uhuru and Ruto instructed a respective aide to come up with 40 names each, from which a Cabinet would be picked. Nancy Gitau, now a political adviser in the President’s office would do the picking for the President-elect, while Maryanne Keitany, now the chief of staff in the office of the deputy President, would do the job for the latter. At the end of the day, the President and his deputy had a list of 80 names from which to pick an 18 to 20 member Cabinet.

The painstaking detail of how they whittled down the list to just the sizeable number of interviewees they needed is known just by the two since, according to the source, at times they met for long hours without anyone one else apart from security aides. It was another clever move by the newly elected pair to shake off influence by lobbyists who ordinarily would be driven by other considerations other than qualifications when floating names for appointment. In the meantime, the Supreme Court had delivered its verdict and cleared way for Uhuru and Ruto to be sworn as President and deputy on April 9.

Then came the D-Day and the President-elect and his deputy faced a hitch that troubled the official inauguration committee. A church minister had requested that the President, his deputy and their spouses kneel down at the Kasarani stadium dais as he prayed for them. However, military protocol is such that an officer of senior rank cannot go down on their knees when junior officers are around and up standing. Yet here, the Commander-in-chief would be kneeling right in front junior officers participating in the inaugural parade.

Someone whispered to the bishop who would lead the prayers to just ambush everybody with the request for the President and his deputy to kneel down. Few people may have noticed sharp glances being exchanged between the protocol team and the military top brass as pillows were laid out to kneel on, but solemn requirement stood as protocol was broken.

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